The Perfect Worship of a Shepherd King

1I love the story of David dancing in 2 Samuel 6 when the ark of the covenant is brought into Jerusalem. David’s heart of worship is on full display, overflowing into passionate dancing and celebration. This story provides worship leaders (and all worshippers for that matter) with a challenging example of:

1. Worship that is total (2 Samuel 6:14)
“And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod.”
David didn’t hold back. Here is the King of Israel, a strong man, a visible man, a well-known man, and he’s so consumed with what good things God has done that he’s dancing (picture this..) “with all his might”. And as if that’s not enough, he’s “wearing a linen ephod”. One commentary I read described a linen ephod as “form fitting”. There’s a mental image for you. David’s total worship is a challenge to us, who are so often so reserved and so self-conscious that we worship God in a bullet-proof cage of self-conscious reservation.

2. Worship that draws scorn (2 Samuel 6:20)
“Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, ‘How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!'”
You can hear the contempt dripping from Michal’s words. She heaps condemnation and scorn upon David for his public display of worship. There is a lesson here: heartfelt, expressive worship will often make you look stupid in some people’s eyes. But this can be a good thing for us to experience. Because we’re in good company thanks to David. Am I more like David in my worship, or more like Michal? Do I worship with a childlike love for Jesus, or a crusty old stiffness? I want the former and I hope you do too.

3. Worship that is God-centered (2 Samuel 6:21)
“And David said to Michal, ‘It was before the LORD…'”
David’s worship is God-centered. And because it’s God centered, he doesn’t care what people think of him. How much is our worship confined because of our self-consciousness or others-consciousness? Maybe it’s because: “I don’t like to sing. I don’t like this song. I can’t clap. I’m a guy, guys don’t clap. No one else is lifting their hands. I don’t want to be hand raiser.” The list goes on. When our worship is God-centered, then like David, we can worship with abandon.

4. Worship that is always growing deeper (2 Samuel 6:22)
“I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.”
I don’t know about you, but on the scale of “undignified-ness”, dancing with all your might in a form-fitting linen ephod is pretty high up there. Not for David. There’s still room for him to grow. How about for us? How often (if ever) do we go outside our self-defined safe zones in worship? Are we seeking to grow in expressiveness, in articulating heart-felt praise and gratefulness to God? David is an example to us of a man who sought to grow in worship, not settle down in a safe zone.

This post could stop here, and many times when I’ve taught on this text, my messages have indeed stopped here. And the main point is “worship harder! Lift your hands more! Don’t be so self-conscious! Be more like David!”

But that’s missing the point. 

It misses that David’s worship in 2 Samuel 6 is pointing us to Jesus’s perfect worship.

Because David, the shepherd-king who worshipped God with abandon and joyfulness, is pointing to Jesus, the true and greater David, the true and greater Shepherd-King, who perfectly worshipped his Father with abandon and joyfulness, and became so undignified as to lay down his life for his sheep on the cross.

Only Jesus’ worship was truly total.

Only Jesus’ worship drew the ultimate scorn that led to his crucifixion in our place on a cross.

Only Jesus’ worship was perfectly God-centered.

And, thanks be to God, our worship, (even our meager/lame/reserved/self-conscious attempts), is covered over in Jesus’ perfect worship of the Father.

The point of David’s worship isn’t to make us feel guilty about our lesser attempts. The point of David’s worship is to point us to Jesus’ perfect attempt. And as a result:

We’re free to be expressive and joyful and undignified in our worship (though we do keep Paul’s instructions and admonitions in mind). Because we’re covered! Our worship is “before the Lord”, and acceptable to God, and delighted in because of Jesus.

We’re also free to bring our self-conscious, un-inspired, weary, off-beat, lackadaisical worship to God, and not be afraid that he’s disappointed in our lameness, because God sees our feeble attempts of worship through the lens of his son’s perfect (and ongoing) worship on our behalf.

We could all use some encouragement from time to time to loosen up, to grow up, and to look up in our worship, and stop being so incredibly self-conscious and reserved. David is a good example of this.

But ultimately, we all need to look to Jesus, the perfect worshipper, and find our freedom to worship, yes, even to dance with all our might, not in feelings of guilt or obligation, but instead in the good news of being covered up in him and raised to life forevermore.

4 thoughts on “The Perfect Worship of a Shepherd King”

  1. The only thing I will add is that Dancing wasn’t the only thing David did.

    Many of his psalms use the word Selah, which the Amplified Bible translates Selah as “pause, and think of that.”

    Also, it is obvious that Solomon must’ve earned from his dad and incorporated at least some of the formal Davidic Worship in the dedication of Solomon’s Temple, at which the cloud came down and the Priests couldn’t minister.

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